Rangers eye extension for Hamilton

Rangers eye extension for Hamilton

Josh Hamilton's contract is next on the agenda for the Rangers.

Over the next few weeks, the Rangers will be turning their attention to signing their pre-arbitration players before the start of the Cactus League season, and Hamilton is foremost among that group.

The question is if the Rangers will be able to sign Hamilton to a long-term deal or if they will have to settle on another one-year deal. A long-term deal is preferable.

"Those are things we usually talk about in Spring Training," assistant general manager Thad Levine said.

Pre-arbitration players are those with fewer than three years of service time and aren't in the top 17 percent of those with 2-3 years of service time. Hamilton has two years of service time.

The Rangers have a history of trying to sign their top pre-arbitration-eligible players to long-term contracts, and they usually do it during Spring Training.

Ian Kinsler agreed to a five-year, $22 million contract last spring after just two years in the big leagues. Hank Blalock is in the option year of the original five-year, $15.25 million contract that he signed in Spring Training 2004, when he had fewer than two years of service time.

Michael Young had just two-plus years in the big leagues when he signed a four-year contract just before Opening Day 2004. Young's five-year, $80 million extension was completed during Spring Training 2007.

Long-term contract extensions for players with fewer than three years' service time allows players and clubs to avoid difficult and potentially divisive arbitration hearings as well as delay a player's entry into the free-agent market.

Mark Teixeira was the exception for the Rangers. He and his agent, Scott Boras, declined to discuss a long-term contract with the Rangers with the exception of a two-year deal in 2006 that served only to avoid arbitration. Faced with losing him to free agency at the end of the season, the Rangers traded Teixeira to the Braves on July 31, 2007, along with pitcher Ron Mahay and received five players in return.

Hamilton, who is working out in Arizona, is entering his second year with the Rangers. Acquired from the Reds for right-hander Edinson Volquez, Hamilton hit .304 with 32 home runs and 130 RBIs for the Rangers in 2008. He was a starting outfielder for the American League All-Star team and was named the club's Player of the Year.

The Rangers are not alone. Other teams try to get early long-term deals done with top pre-arbitration players.

All-Star second baseman Dustin Pedroia, who has 2.41 years of service time, signed a six-year, $40.5 million extension with the Red Sox in December. Rays third baseman Evan Longoria had just arrived in the big leagues last April when he agreed to a six-year, $17.5 million extension with two club option years. That could keep him from being eligible for free agency until after 2016 instead of 2014.

Indians center fielder Grady Sizemore signed a six-year, $23.45 million contract in Spring Training 2006. At the time, it was the largest contract in history given to a player with fewer than two years service time.

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.